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April 24, 2021

Last summer I found SailNavSim a very neat and deceptively simple sailing navigation simulator. It has a simple HTML frontend with basically one form field: a box in which to put in your course and that’s it. A button to raise or lower the sails and that’s it.

There is a very complex simulation underneath it, though – the (anonymous? I don’t see their name anywhere) developer is simulating the weather and ocean currents and waves for the whole world, based on real life data. The only other game I know that does something like it it is the Microsoft Flight Simulator. And of course there are a couple of different boats with very different sailing characteristics.

And there you go – there are private and public races, some take a few hours, some months and up until a few weeks back it was mostly a matter of looking at your little icon on a map, adjusting the sails to go into the direction you want to and things are, as they say, smooth sailing. (Oh, and there is no pause button. If you go to bed or get distracted by mundane things like having to make a living, your boat will sail on, happily crashing into the shore.)

Starting a few weeks back, the developer added a new feature: celestial navigation mode. No GPS coordinates, no little icon on the map to tell you where you are unless you’re near the shores. And being the naive idiot that I am I signed up for the very first public race with that feature: a race from Rhode Island to the South West of England.
If you’ve ever looked at a map, you know there is one thing missing: shores. So most of the time you’ll have to calculate your position from celestial sights. But if you look at this picture here, you can tell that there is one thing missing at the moment:

Yes, a view of the sky. Sooo… how? I’m not a trained sailor. I can sort of understand the compass and I figured I could guess my rough location based on the North Star and the sun. So for now, I am somewhere in my little boat under these clouds, maybe heading straight to Africa or maybe Iceland? I guess we’ll see once there is some kind of shore.

And until then I’ll open the game once in a while in a state of anxiety because all things considered, feeling completely lost on a huge unknowable ocean is quite, as they say, a mood in 2021.


  • Dominik Schwind